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Extended survival of Pleistocene Siberian wolves into the early 20th century on the island of Honshū

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  • Jonas Niemann
  • Shyam Gopalakrishnan
  • Nobuyuki Yamaguchi
  • Jazmín Ramos-Madrigal
  • Nathan Wales
  • M. Thomas P. Gilbert
  • Mikkel Holger S. Sinding


Publication details

DateAccepted/In press - 3 Dec 2020
DateE-pub ahead of print - 7 Dec 2020
DatePublished (current) - 22 Jan 2021
Issue number1
Number of pages8
Early online date7/12/20
Original languageEnglish


The Japanese or Honshū wolf was one the most distinct gray wolf subspecies due to its small stature and endemicity to the islands of Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū. Long revered as a guardian of farmers and travellers, it was persecuted from the 17th century following a rabies epidemic, which led to its extinction in the early 20th century. To better understand its evolutionary history, we sequenced the nuclear genome of a 19th century Honshū wolf specimen to an average depth of coverage of 3.7✕. We find Honshū wolves were closely related to a lineage of Siberian wolves that were previously believed to have gone extinct in the Late Pleistocene, thereby extending the survival of this ancient lineage until the early 20th century. We also detected significant gene flow between Japanese dogs and the Honshū wolf, corroborating previous reports on Honshū wolf dog interbreeding.

Bibliographical note

©2020 The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Biological Sciences, Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Phylogenetics


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